Gripping Wine Stories with San Francisco Chronicle Wine Columnist Esther Mobley



In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, we’re chatting with Esther Mobley, on the gripping stories that catapulted her to become the columnist for one of the most prestigious wine columns in North America, the San Francisco Chronicle, at just 24 years of age. Enjoy!



  • How did Esther’s college admissions essay end up in the New York Times?
  • Why did Esther decide to spend her gap year working at a vineyard?
  • What experiences from the vineyard in Napa piqued Esther’s interest in the wine world?
  • Should wine writers all experience winemaking?
  • What came next for Esther after working the harvest in Napa?
  • What aspects of long-form narrative writing really appeal to Esther?
  • Why does Esther love “car time” when interviewing people?
  • How is storytelling important to Esther’s writing?
  • What has changed about California winemaking since Esther started writing for the San Francisco Chronicle in 2015?
  • What is Esther’s opinion on natural wine and its growing popularity?
  • How did Esther connect with Alecia “P!nk” Moore and end up interviewing her?
  • How has Alecia Moore stood out from other celebrity winemakers and winery owners?
  • What does the $315 million sale of Meiomi wines mean for the wine industry?
  • Why is Joe Wagner an important industry figure to follow?
  • Can a brand be authentic without owning a vineyard?
  • What are some interesting insights that Esther uncovered in her exploration of food and wine pairing with Ali Bouzari?
  • Have Esther’s stories ever been a catalyst of change in the wine industry?


About Esther Mobley

Esther Mobley is a staff writer at the San Francisco Chronicle. She writes primarily about wine, and her beat also includes beer, spirits, drinking culture and, occasionally, doughnuts. In her regular Drink Up column, she reviews Bay Area bars. Before joining The Chronicle, Mobley was an assistant editor at Wine Spectator magazine in New York. She has worked two harvests, in Napa, California and Mendoza, Argentina. She studied English literature at Smith College.




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Transcript & Takeaways

Welcome to episode 27! In today’s episode, we’re chatting with Esther Mobley, on the gripping stories that catapulted her to become the columnist for one of the most prestigious wine columns in North America, the San Francisco Chronicle, at just 24 years of age.

But before we get started, I want to give a shout out to two Ottawa sommeliers, Travis and Corey, who said on Instagram, “Hey Natalie, we are loving the podcast!”

Well, thank you, guys! Glad to hear that ;) Let me know if you have any suggestions for future guests or topics.

I’ll continue to give a shout to others who’ve been kind enough to post a review on Apple podcasts, social or email, so if you want me to mention your website or social media handle, please include that in your review, along with your name.

Now, back to this episode. We chat with Esther Mobley about food and wine pairing myths, the rise of commercial wine brands and her love of a great story. Enjoy!


You can also watch the video interview with Esther that includes bonus content and behind-the-scenes questions and answers that weren’t included in this podcast.


Wasn’t that terrific?! Here are my takeaways from this discussion:

  1. Esther is bang on with her observations of Californian wines moving toward a more refreshing style with lighter-bodied wines rather than the high alcohol fruit bombs made with excessively ripe grapes.
  2. I admire how she sees the duality of natural wines: their lack of definition is both a frustration and part of their beauty. Conversely, she believes that commercial wines aren’t necessarily any less soulful than so-called artisanal wines.
  3. She also sees the duality in people, like Alicia/Pink, that also make them nuanced and complex.
  4. I thought Esther’s experiment with the relative saltiness between two glasses of salted water is fascinating. Context is everything. That’s why I also use a technique in my online courses where we taste wine, then lick some salt, then go back to the wine. You’ll be amazed at what happens to the wine ;)

You’ll find links to Esther’s online wine columns and to her social media handles in the show notes at

Did you know that you can now listen to this podcast on your smart speaker? Just say: “Hey Google” or “Alexa — play the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast.” I’d love to chat about wine with you while you’re doing the dishes, the laundry, having breakfast, lunch or dinner … it’s always wine time.

What was your favourite tip or quote from this episode? Share that with me on Twitter or Facebook and tag me @nataliemaclean, on Instagram I’m @nataliemacleanwine.

If you liked this episode, please tell a friend about it, especially one who’s interested in wine and yoga. My podcast is easy to find, whether you search Google on its name Unreserved Wine Talk, or on my name.

Finally, if you want to take your ability to pair wine and food to the next level, join me in a free online video class at

On next week’s show, I’ll be chatting about wines for Father’s Day. Manly yes, but I like them too!



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